3 IDEAS FROM ME
“Starting from zero can be a gift.
If you don't have much to begin with, you don't have much to lose.
You can be bold when you aren't trying to protect something.”
“In many cases, the outcome you want will continue to elude you—even if you try harder.
But it may be possible if you try differently.
Can your current choices carry you to your desired future? If not, something has to change. You can’t get there from here. You have to get on a different trajectory.”
“You don’t need a better computer to become a writer.
You don’t need a better guitar to become a musician.
You don’t need a better camera to become a photographer.
What you need is to get to work.”
2 QUOTES FROM OTHERS
The economist John Kenneth Galbraith on the challenge of being open-minded:
“Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
Source: Economics, Peace and Laughter
Computer scientist Leonard Adleman on intellectual courage and choosing the right problem to work on:
INTERVIEWER: They say the most creative and challenging part of research is finding the right question to ask. Do you agree with that?
ADLEMAN: I wouldn't characterize it as the most challenging thing, but it's of critical importance. Sometimes it's not hard to find the “right question'. For example the mathematics literature is full of very important unanswered questions. In this case, the real issue is: Has that question's time come? Have we reached a point where developments in the appropriate area of science give us some chance of breaking the problem? For example, I worked on a famous centuries old math problem called “Fermat's Last Theorem”. I was not ‘strong' enough to solve it, but I find some solace in the fact that my intuition that its ‘time had come' was right. The problem was finally solved two years ago by Andrew Wiles of Princeton. It was one of the major events in the history of mathematics.
The other side is to generate new questions. That's a funny process. The way I seek to generate new questions is to start to look at whole new fields, like biology, immunology or physics. Since I come from a different field, mathematics, I bring an unusual point-of-view that sometimes allows me to generate questions different from the classical questions in those areas. Like the question of DNA computing.
For the young scientist, this question of choosing the right question to spend your valuable limited intellectual resources on is critical. I often sit for months and do no productive work that anybody can see, because I don't feel I have a good enough question to work on. Rather than take on some lesser question, I would prefer to read a mystery novel. The point is, sometimes it's important to lie fallow for a time waiting for the ‘right question' to appear, rather than to engage in uninspiring work and miss the important opportunity when in comes.
I always tell my students and junior faculty that they are better off following their inspiration and their hearts in what research they do, that they should always try to take on the most interesting and important problems, that they should not waste their time on little problems just to make another line on a vitae.
My philosophy is that it's important, in a curious way, for scientists to be courageous. Not physically courageous, but courageous in an intellectual way. I believe that by working on extremely hard problems, by being courageous, you may succeed. But even if you fail, you fail gloriously. And you will have learned immense amounts, you will have extended the envelope of what you can do. As a byproduct of failing on a great problem, I have always found that I could solve some lesser but still interesting problems—which then fill your vitae.”
1 QUESTION FOR YOU
People will tell stories about you at your funeral. What chapter are you writing today?
Until next week,
p.s. What a vibe.